My last and most hopeful post from Rome

I saved the best for last…

Meet my new friend Chris

With the kindness and patience of Jesus
With the kindness and patience of Jesus

Upon leaving St. Peter’s and the Vatican I was about to cross the bridge (Ponte Vittorio Emanuele) into Rome I saw an inviting bench for weary pedestrians so I sat down. In a moment I was observing a young student who I later learned to be Chris from the Diocese of Pittsburg (I think that this was what was emblazoned on his fleecy).

Here he sat for an hour and gently talked to this street lady who had everything she owned covered in green plastic and situated on the bench beside her. Occasionally he would laugh at something she said or place his hand lovingly on her shoulder while his more ambitious fellow students darted from one place to another.
He didn’t see it but I did. Those passing by querried within themselves asking, “Why is he talking to her?”
I liked Chris so after a while I stood up and walked over beside him then apologized for interrupting and said, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”
He said, “Yes sir, I am.”
I replied, “Well, many of your colleagues are not (they have been sacramentalized without yet being evangelized) and I am not here to make a case for Protestantism -there are millions of protestants and evangelicals who are not Christians. I did want to tell you… What’s your name?”
“Chris,” he answered.
“Chris, I’m sorry to tell you but you’re never going to make it in the priesthood.”
“Oh, why is that?” He seemed concerned.
Well, Chris, you’re too much like Jesus. He would have done just what you’re doing.”
Chris echoed back, “Isn’t this what it’s all about?”
“Yes, Chris, it is, but your colleagues haven’t yet figured that out.”
“I know. Will you pray for me? I’ll pray for you.”
We exchanged first names.
After some more small talk, that’s the way we left it until I came home and yesterday emailed the Diocese of Pittsburgh and asked if they’d track this young fellow down so that I could occasionally encourage him. After the the way I complimented him they might have already bumped him up to an Arch Deacon or demoted him to an office clerk. At any rate, I was blessed by him, Roman Catholic or no. We need more Chris’ who understand that the secret to power in the kingdom of God is powerlessness. 
Roman Catholicism as protestant Evangelicalism (neither of them look very much like their supposed founder) have failed to understand almost everything Jesus taught on the subject of servant leadership. Jesus style leadership is always bottom up and never top down. You’d never see him waiting for someone to kiss his ring finger.
Chris, if you’re out there and read this, take heart. He never forgets.
Galatians 6:9-10
Hebrews 6:10
1 Cor. 15:58

More Rome on Friday

It is now my impression that Rome is more about sex, hookers, beaucrats with chaffeurs waiting alongside limosines, police, religious clerics and pretentious botoxed, implanted, enhanced, uplifted women in highheels, and furs (it is cobblestoned and hot) than religion, though there is plenty of “religion” (superstition) to go around.

Gregorian Seminary in Rome

Priest factory: Gregorian Seminary in Rome

I went to Gregorian Seminary looking to pick a fight but everyone there was too nice to argue with so Inquired of one of the young Americans studying there if it was true what I had heard and I genuinely wanted his observation. I asked, “Is it true that fewer than 8% of Rome attend mass on any given Sunday?” About that time one of his English speaking, Italian colleagues arrived to overhear me to which he interjected, “No! That is simply not true! It is not 8%! It is five and all of these are either priests or nuns.” We all had a good chuckle. I then offered this, “Well you lads had better get out of the classrooms and onto the streets. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are out distancing you.” The Italian admitted, “Yes, you are right, we have a lot of work to do!”

It looks like a Festival but, I assure you, it wasn't

It looks like a Festival but, I assure you, it wasn

I wouldn’t cough up the 15 Euro for the taxi ride to St. Peter’s Bacilica so I decided to walk. On the map it didn’t seem all that far. It’s not far if you aren’t detoured by a 30,000 strong student protest with Carabiniere (national para-military police) and Rome police blocking every convenient street with their poised 

fall-2008-part-2-parma-to-rome-117

Uzi’s and billyclubs (I’m not certain, but I think they meant it). You should also be aware that like Venice, maps mean little in Rome. Streets do not go where you intend for them too. TIP: Be sure that you know where “North” is.

Absolutely astounding 14,000 peope a day at 11 Euro

Absolutely astounding 14,000 peope a day at 11 Euro

After meandering for almost two hours I finally arrived at Via della Concilazione, a regal, wide throughfare leading past trinket shops,

Cashing in on Saint Peter

Cashing in on Saint Peter

awestruck pilgrims buying the trinkets and priest and nun’s shuffling from important meeting to a more important meeting. To be honest, it is enough to make one sick at their stomach. I stopped one priest and said in English (which he did not understand) and then in Italian, “Jesus would not be pleased.”  To this he answered, “Si, vero!” (Yes, true!)
Yet, with all of this disappointment, I did mange to make the entire journey worthwhile. Here’s one of the splendid moments. Beat this for a real character (Samuel Clemons is dead…ummm, or is he?).
I see a painting in the works

I see a painting in the works

More of Rome…

The historical Colosseum with an Indian hot dog vendor

The historical Coliseum with an Indian hot dog vendor and Gypsie attendants

Thursday morning and the day looked promising so, umbrella-less I struck out for the Coliseum about a twenty minute walk from my hotel. Soooooo…? Mingled among the senister looking Gypsi women were busloads of Japanese people with cameras all clicking away and likely not watching their wallets. Well, I crowded in with the Japanese tourist and got a few shots but stopped shy of standing in line and paying the money to parade through the remains.

From there I wandered toward the skeleton of the Imperial Palace and Gardens. This is another quite impressive looking bit of archaeology. As the sky began to gray, I quickly took pictures of what I could and headed back toward my hotel and just in time, slipped under the awning of a cafe along Via Nazionale and there sat next to a fellow from Malta who was waiting for his flight to Argentina. I was able to speak to him about spirtual matters and then after an expresso rushed on between downpours to my hotel.

The Imperial Palace or what's left of it

The Imperial Palace or what was once the imperial Palace

Tania Goncalves

Tania Goncalves

 

 

 

 

Later at 1 in the afternoon, I recieved the call I had been waiting on. A Brazilian acquaintance, Tania Goncalves was calling me to meet for lunch. I first met Tania at a Free Methodist church planting conference in Budapest more than six or seven years ago. It took her all of those years to finally get to Italy. It’s amazing what some people will go through to follow their dream. Truthfully, it is quite easy by comparison for Americans and Canadians to raise the necessary funding, get visas and so forth, but it is something else for a Brazilian to become a missionary to Italy. You must be certain of a call to this work. She now lives about an hour from Rome and is planting a church in a city of about 65,000 people. As I listened to her incredible journey, we sat eating pizza for two hours while it poured outside.

Afterwards, I went back to my hotel and slept the whole afternoon away and then, when it cleared a little,  went for a walk and then to supper.

Tomorrow the St Peter’s and perhaps the Vatican.

Now to Rome…

November 11-14, 2008

Most Italians, after having heard that I have been to Italy twenty-five times are shocked to hear that, while I know my way up and down Italy, I had never spent any time in Rome. This is a first for me.

On Wednesday morning I left on the early EuroStar for Rome an almost four hour, lickity-split ride stopping only in Bologna and Florence. I pre-occupied myself with drawing portraits of those around me and making friends with a few. When they ask what I am doing in Italy and why I speak Italian, I use the opportunity to tell them that I am a Christian, working with Christian groups and share Jesus when opportunity presents itself.

The Panthenon

The Pantheon

By 11 in the morning (about 30 minutes late) we pulled into the Roma central station and I began looking for Venzia Street and the hotel that had been recommended by friends. Never ask Italians for directions! I was told that it was miles away (I later found it two blocks from the main station and my hotel). With this bit of erroneous information I landed on the Paris Hotel (Via Firenze, 57). The lobby was tacky and Chinese reception with no sense of customer service but the price, room and morning breakfast GREAT!!! (remember this one) and a single for only 50 Euro.

Mass in Pantheon... They know how to make a buck.

Mass in Pantheon... They know how to make a buck.

Vittoriano at dusk

Vittoriano at dusk

Once unpacked and settled, I hit the streets going down the hill (lots of hills in Rome) and finally ending up at the Piazza Navona where I sat in the rain eating gelato at 7 Euro for two (small, and I mean small) scoops. When I complained, saying that that, I didn’t want to buy the restaurant, I just wanted a bowl of ice cream the owner (we had become friends) laughed and said, “This is Piazza Navona.” As I wandered the back streets I came up on a building that seemed to somhow be important as it was crowded with thousands of tourists. When I asked where I was, I was duly informed, “It’s only the Pantheon” (stupid). I also, in my wandering wound up at the Fontana di Trevi. Since everyone was busy taking pictures I thought that I should perhaps make a few shots. Well, I could wear you out with tourist-ty stuff but really the best thing I saw was a show of paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Frans Hals and Rubens… and all for a measly nine Euro. Beats going to Amsterdam and Brussels to see them.

The Trevi Fountain... Fairly important, I think

The Trevi Fountain... Fairly important, I think

For dinner, and let me recommend it (I went there twice, two nights running), Che Amore on a small street (there are two of them-one by The Trevi Fountain) on Via Agostino di Prentis. Try their steak, roasted potatoes and lettuce salad for about 16 Euro.

Okay, tomorrow the Coliseum.